Thursday, February 23, 2012

More than Listening

I had planned to write about something else today, but there's a conundrum gnawing at my brain, and it won't let me go until I tussle with it, so here goes...

This week, I posted videos by two quite different thinkers, Peter Rollins and Alain de Botton.  Rollins is a Christian theologian.  De Botton is an Atheist philosopher.  In spite of this, the two have something in common.  I think the "something" is listening (which was also the something I had planned to write about today)They are both men who are prepared to listen, and, even more than listening, to actually evaluate their own beliefs and behaviour through the perspective of the "other". 

So you might expect their perspectives to mesh, quite nicely;  but whilst there are some points of agreement (the importance of listening being the biggest) their perspectives do. not. sit. comfortably. together. at. all.

And for me, the thing I find utterly compelling when I listen to both is NOT their agreement, but the jagged dissonance that exists between them. 
(And that's not a criticism.  If you asked either of them, I suspect they might say the same)

De Botton is seeking to take some of the 'consoling' and 'healthy' aspects of religious observance, and use these in a secular way.  He mentions "community around a shared set of values", "ethics", aspects of rhythm and intentionality, and in particular "silence and space" as valuable aspects of religion.  He seems to wrap all of these loosely within the terms "consolation and meaning".

Rollins, however, seems determined to explode all "consolation and meaning", and have us all embrace pain and nothingness!  He does not seek to find value in religion at all; but to wipe the salve of religious certainty from every person he can.  He does not believe that Christianity is "the true religion", rather, he sees it as "a splinter in all religions" (I'm with him on that, by the way).

It's not that Rollins sees no value in consolation, or that de Botton is trying to escape angst.  I think both of them live examined lives.  And I think both of them probably see the necessity for rest and "escape", at times, from all the examination!  However (and I wonder what de Botton would say in response to this) I am irresistibly drawn to the dissonance between the two views.  For me, this very dissonance represents something authentic, raw, and seminally human.  I'm arrested by Rollins' idea, that our thoughts, rituals and creeds are very often something we use to mask what we truly believe - and that it is only in our behaviour that our true beliefs are revealed.  Without the perspective of an "other", we very often remain unaware of our own inner workings.  And if we never truly engage with our own inner selves, we remain merely ideas about ourselves;  artificial and inauthentic. 

In this sense, our true selves reside in the dissonance between views;  in the rupture between our own ideas about who we are, and those of the "other".  This makes truly listening something much larger than "empathy" or "mutual understanding".  It's uncomfortable.  It's disturbing.  And I believe when we engage in real, honest listening - both to others, and through them, to ourselves - we are never more present, alive, and fully human.

Hmmm... Looks like I've written a post about listening, after all!


  1. Love the depth. Had to read it three times to wrap my head around it, but very interesting and thought-provoking Twinny dear.

  2. Great writing and great thoughts.

    Listening is something I struggle with, but something I enjoy at the same time. I suppose, as you seem to advocate here, that listening is almost synonymous with learning. To learn is to listen and vice versa. And those who don't never wanted to in the first place.

    1. Adrian, I've been thinking...
      I think it is not so much 'learning' as it is growing. I know "personal growth" is a tired and overused term, but if the reality of our true selves resides somewhere between our own conceptions and others' perceptions, then as we realise more of it, bringing it into our perceived reality - the part of us that is real and truly alive grows larger.

      Does that hurt your head? (it does mine!)

      Also thinking about how this fits in with the idea of being "In Christ". So far, I actually think it does fit, because being in Christ is about identity, If He IS the ultimate reality, then the more we are living in reality, the more we are living in Him. There are also some thoughts about how he was the one who was outside culture and identity (very Rollins inspired, forgive me!) ... but I'm still putting it together.

      Sorry if this discussion is a pain in the brain! Just where my thoughts are at, just now.

  3. Thanks, Twinny - glad you took the time to wrestle with it (knew when I posted this one that I would probably get a lot of "huh?" reactions!)

    Adrian, Yes, very true - And your comment about having to "want to learn" is profoundly so.

    The difficulty about this kind of 'interpersonal learning' (for want of a better term) is that it is deeply personal, and often painful - even though it can and does lead to great joy. "He who has ears let him hear"!

  4. Here I go being a stick in the mud again but we don't learn - make meaning - by listening; we make meaning by doing... and that's why the action verb 'to make' is important to appreciate.

    Sure, some of us can stimulate and engage significant parts of the brain by listening but that necessarily involves actively doing so, meaning that we DO something with what we're hearing. It's the doing and not the listening that is key here.

    Echo chambers are a great place to hear something, but it doesn't do much in the way of increasing our learning in the sense of making new connections and increasing our knowledge. In this sense, religious belief is very much an echo chamber (here's the truth, now accept it first and then spread the Good News!). We know this by the process of either accepting or rejecting faith, a process that yields exactly what we would expect to learn: very little if anything... other than more or less faith from that starting position.

    What stimulates learning in the listening sense is comparing and contrasting what we've heard, and this is exactly what Kerry has done between the two presenters. It is undertaking this process of doing something with what we've heard that facilitates learning, and not the act of passively listening.

    1. Mr T, I'm coming to appreciate your insights more and more!

      You've expressed the essence of "constructivism" beautifully here - the idea that our learning is something we actively construct. Nobody ever learned anything just by having words directed at them - whatever form that takes. For me, the wonderful thing in engaging fully with others, is that in wrestling with who they are (and in that process, who you are, yourself) you begin to put together meaning (I like your perspective on "making" meaning - it's very true!)& yes, it is very much an active process.

      A related thought, is that if you only experience "community" with like-minded people, there is so much that is never called into question - and as you say, "information" that is passively accepted, rather than wrestled into being, is not true learning. If you enlarge your community, you enlarge yourself.

      On the connection with religious belief. I think there is a very important truth in your observation. I have met too many people who think if they can listen to, and parrot off, the right ideas "about" God, doctrine, etc., that they know something. Usually that 'something' also includes the requirement to go spread the 'right ideas' to those who haven't rote learned them yet. I completely agree with you that this is NOT knowledge. You don't really "know" anything until it is part of your experience in some way.

      Rollins (I'm really enjoying exploring his ideas at the moment, so pardon me for possibly overusing them) is extremely critical of the established church for exactly that reason. He would advocate, that churches NOT tell people what the 'truth' is; instead, raising questions, and encouraging them to wrestle it out for themselves - and not in some "guided" kind of way... REALLY work it out for themselves. I think there's more faith in that kind of approach than in every church system ever put together. It presupposes that God is big enough to do the 'guiding' without our help!

      I'm curious, here, about your own experiences (if any) with organised religion... is it something you have ever been a part of? What made you start questioning? (& I'm not asking with a view to have you re-evaluate your stance regarding the church etc. - I'm not an advocate for that system at all!)

    2. Thanks for the compliment, Kerry.

      I have traveled, lived, and worked in many places and have come to know many people. Believe it or not, my formative experiences were about apartheid and totalitarianism. I came to realization at about the age of eight that the underlying problem was some faith-based belief. I don't mean religion per se but the empowerment of acting on beliefs that were themselves based on nothing but themselves.

      Consider apartheid, that maintained a strong social expectation that it was true that some basic difference was caused because of skin pigmentation. But I knew and played with kids of different levels of skin pigmentation that did not translate into any basic difference I could perceive. Where was the causal link? Well, after being lectured at some length by many adults, I finally figured out that this difference was only to be found in the minds of people and not in reality.

      Consider totalitarianism, that maintained a strong social expectation that the state as the mother and its leader as the father deserved more authority than any individual. All I saw was fear, and a bleak, grey landscape where personal expression without permission was a crime. At Auschwitz, I saw what this state sanctioned contempt for real people could become and I realized there was no difference between the contempt for what was true in reality in apartheid as there was a similar contempt in a totalitarian state.

      It is this same contempt for what is true and replaced by what is believed to be true I find expressed in alternative and complimentary medicine, religion, conspiracies, and the supernatural. It's all of a kind, where people elevate belief to be equivalent to knowledge without doing the hard work to show causal effect... often where there is none.

      I have learned that religious belief as a whole is an unnecessary filter through which knowledge is usually respected less than belief about it... a belief that too often becomes a significant impediment between people dealing honestly and openly and with one another that assumes a mutual respect first. From the blatant misogyny common in most popular religions to the ongoing human rights abuses done in god's name by so many religious people under its banner, I have come to realize that I agree with Hitchens... that religious belief itself is always a compromising input. To add insult to injury, I find a great deal of active religious militancy advocating for special privileges that does not respect the individual's ability to choose. This runs from abortion services to end of life issues, where the religious tend to assume that belief in a religious sense magically empowers the believer to a higher moral platform from which to honour their belief in a god by translates into denying and impeding others legal equality and respect. The list goes on and on where religious interference in personal choices never ends... all because of some presumed access to some presumed secret knowledge from a secret domain empowers presumed belief to be equivalent to what's true in reality.

      It's all the same broken thing.

    3. Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself... nice to feel I'm getting to know you a bit better :)

      You've certainly had a lot of experiences (& I noticed in your other reply to Stuart, that you've seen more of Australia than I have!! I'm a wee bit jealous!! ;)

      The kinds of things you are talking about - the way we use "systems" to elevate and privilege particular groups, and the way we hang onto "belief" simply because it privileges us in some way, are things I fight against too.

      I still believe in God. And that Jesus was exactly who he said he was - but I think 'we' (as a cultural group) have twisted our idea of that beyond all recognition - and yes - all of the abuses you cite are very real and problematic. The system is very much 'man-made'.

      I guess where I'm "at" at the moment, is believing that God is, in fact, bigger and wider and more all-encompassing than any system we could conceive. And that He doesn't need us to manipulate him into 'being' - which is what I believe most religious practice tries to do.

      Thanks for your thoughts - and I think we actually have a lot in common.

    4. I think we do, too. I think we ALL do but we let certain ideas get in the way.

      Right up front, let me say that I think there's nothing inherently wrong with holding private religious beliefs... as long as we understand them to be private and subservient to secular Enlightenment values. (This seems to be far too much to ask of most religious believers, however, where they feel commanded to go forth and convert.) In other words, more of us need to accept first that other people matter more, rank higher, than our private subservient religious beliefs.

      If more of us would follow just this single maxim, think how it would have undermined and countered apartheid, undermined and countered every totalitarian regime, empowered social justice and fairness regarding, for one example, aboriginals in Australia. The list would be very long and always an historical improvement.

      At the heart of every atheist with whom I've had contact is a person who does just this, who holds people and their welfare to be of a greater concern than any other personal belief. Each of us matters because all of us make up the whole. And we prove this by showing respect to what it is we share, that brings us together, that binds us to kith and kin: our common humanity. Our tribe is not local but global. There is no us and them, and this is a cornerstone of being able to overcome the small prejudices and bigotries of those who ML King described as more concerned with the colour of one's skin (or gender, or nationality, or culture, language, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity, and so on) than the quality of one's character in regards to how we treat the Other. Our character is what matters most, and this is defined by the esteem we hold for the rights and freedoms and dignity of personhood of the Other. To you, I am the Other. To me, you are the Other. We are all the Other and to them we owe our full measure of allegiance.

      Certain ideas interfere with this value - that people rather than beliefs matter more - and work tirelessly to undermine it, to instil some divisive tribalism and fear false enemies. Religious belief in divine authority has achieved great stature as of these divisive ideas and this is why gnus spend so much time and expend so much energy going after it because at it's heart, religious belief in a divine authority is antithetical to this central secular Enlightenment value of primary respect for the Other.

    5. Tildeb this is exactly why I continue to follow Jesus - in spite of all I see wrong with religious institutions established in his name. Quite aside from subjective personal experiences, when I read the narratives and accounts of what he did, what he taught, and who he was, I see relationships of more value than rules and love leading the way, rather than dogma or any other distinction that might exist between people.

      I do feel that atheists can be as dogma-led as anybody (and that really isn't surprising, since they are human too).

      The first atheist I ever came into contact with, was the father of a school friend of mine. He had studied to become a priest in his younger years, and rejected faith completely as a result of his experiences with the Church. I don't know any of the details of his experiences, but I remember him as a bitter, angry, and often abusive man. His anger and harshness eventually drove his children away. I think there must have been deep wounds there, and in this sense I'm not judging... had I experienced whatever he had, I may have been much worse. I can't help wondering, however, if he hadn't just exchanged one rigid set of beliefs for another. It certainly did not make him a more tolerant or loving human being.

      I'm not well versed enough in philosophy to understand exactly what "secular enlightenment values" are, their full origins, or how gnu atheists or others might interpret them. However I think whenever a "code" of some kind is instituted as the "authority" I think we are in the same old danger.

      When you say, however, that human beings are of more value than creeds or beliefs - I am completely in agreement.

  5. Hey Tildeb yeah a lot of us learn by doing. Also some of us learn by listening. There are different types of learners, put simply, visual, aural, kin aesthetic. I think thedifferent types, doesn't matter you get the picture.... In education science and theory there are different learning styles. Anyway a kinase hectic person (damn my iPad self correct) learns by doing.
    Religious people are no different to atheists, they have all the same learning styles in the population. So it is possible to learn by doing within the church. Echo chamber? Yeah if you can call some of the best music ever written some kind of echo chamber, then that's your prerogative. Point is I have been trying to make over and over, is that people when they experience something profoundly spiritual, whether they are Muslim kalathumpian, or voodoo priestesses, it is so profound that it shapes their whole world? Psychological, of course... But we do not, despite your protestations, know everything about psychology or neurology yet.

    1. Well, if 'science' knew everything, it would stop.

      I'm not a big fan of Gardner but I appreciate the notion of preferences in styles. To my way of thinking, different styles are more the domain of what is being learned rather than how we learn it.

      You attribute some wonderful music to religion - as if religious belief caused the music. The reality is a bit more pedantic, in that much of this music was funded by religious people and organizations for a religious purpose. That the suppliers achieved some measure of success (pun intended) in the ears of the clients is not a causal link that faith in the religious sense caused beautiful music.

      Look, Dawkins himself waxes poetically about the awe-inspiring universe. It is you who are trying to attach this sense of wonder and awe to religion. In my mind, this is a hijacking - a theft - of a very common human experience that often transforms us in meaningful ways. Attributing the experience to some - to ANY - kind of Oogity Boogity is a closing of the door to honest inquiry about it.

      People bandy the word 'spiritual' - which is also stolen by the religious to mean something that properly belongs to its domain - to describe these profound experiences (notice, please, that I am not trivializing these potent experiences AT ALL). That's fine if we keep it in the here and now and not attach it to mean something delivered to us via an invisible delivery service from the Head Honcho of Oogity Boogity. My point is that it is a human experience and needs to be understood in this context if we are to describe what is actually going on.

  6. You think that all the music of the christian church was made because it was paid for, Tildeb, how wrong you are. So wrong it's hilarious.

    Chuckling, what an ignorant thing to say, ignores history, that horribly woowoo subject.

    1. No, Stuart, that's not what I wrote. (Why do you insist on jumping to non-flattering conclusions rather than simply asking for clarification... unless you truly believe I'm an idiot.)

      I'm referring to your notion of 'some of the best music ever written' was paid for and the composers were successful at capturing what their clients wanted. I wrote this to show that what you presumed was a causal link was really correlative. Now can you detect the difference between what you think I meant and what I actually meant?

      But let's go with your assumption for a moment: by all means show how religious belief causes some of the BEST music. Remember, religious belief has to be the single variable related to the term 'best'. Assuming you can do this successfully, now show by what mechanism this religious belief uses to transmit itself into musical form unlike (remember, you used the term some of the BEST music ever written) any other (less than BEST) kind of inspiration.

      Still laughing at what you presume is my ignorance?

  7. Yes. Music needs inspiration to be created. The religion inspired great music, that in a few cases was paid for, in most cases was an act of devotion. The devotional music is often very moving music, and great art.

    You either dont understand this, or dont want to understand it.

    1. You assume religion inspires some of the best music. I think it inspires no more than any other. I think any emotion like love and loss - and the pain of each - inspires far more. Much devotional music is some of the most boring, tepid, and uninspired dross I have ever had the misfortune to have to perform.

  8. I have read your post more carefully Tildeb. I don't think you want to understand that religion is causative in much music. Religion is not the only source of inspiration, but throughout human history and prehistory, proven by anthropological studies, music and religion are very much intertwined.

    Yes, they are intertwined at the point of human existence, music I agree, is a very human form of expression, as is religion.

    Belief, passionate faith, is the CAUSE of much music, people are inspired by their faith, their love of their concept of the divine, to write music, usually free of charge, as an act of devotion. It is good music, perhaps I should not have said "BEST" as that is a qualitative, subjective opinion.

    Shamans in less modern societies, use music in the form of voice or drums or instruments to help heal members of their tribe. Music is an integral part of almost all Christian worship, the act of breathing in a regular, paced, rythmic manner has been used by Christians for about 2000 years, to help them attain their sense of spirituality.

    Buddhists use chanting, a form of music to help them meditate and focus. Aborigines in Australia used didgeridoo clap sticks, voice, dance and poetry to access the spiritual dimension of their lives, to tell the stories of the ancestors and to heal.

    You do not have to be faithful believer to access the spiritual heightening effect of music. The process is not closed to Atheists. An Atheist can sing or play an instrument and feel better, listen to a song and feel comforted. Yes, this is because of our shared human experience, I would add, because of our shared spirituality. A spirituality many atheists go to great effort to deny. A spirituality Scientism (NOT SCIENCE, but SCIENTISM) has attempted to crush.

    A spirituality not found in materialism - that materialists have derided, parodied, attempted to ridicule, attempted to outlaw in places like China and the USSR, but is as impossible to contain as an prolific, impossible to repress weed, that just grows organically, because it is an essential part of being human, atheist or believer.

    1. Like it has done with almost everything useful and man made, religion steals everything and claims it for itself. It's quite the greedy piggy. Music is no exception. Music's effect is what is really being hijacked and claimed to be evidence for all kinds of superstitious nonsense.

      So here I am, a gnu atheist, being told that I belong to a group of people out to crush the 'spirituality' of shared music. Maybe so, if we understand 'spirituality' to mean some religious mumbo jumbo. But I let the music speak for itself, to take people on an emotive journey into themselves. I am simply the conduit and a small cog of much bigger machine that produces the music intended to be shared.

      One of these viewpoints about gnu atheists simply isn't accurate, Stuart, and I think the bugaboo is the term 'spirituality' which seems somehow opposed by your use of the term to my understanding of it (to mean a thoughtful love of life where no Oogity Boogity is either needed or wanted). The whole 'materialism' schtick is nothing but a false picture, a diversion from what is true to what is believed to be true so that gnus can be vilified and portrayed in as negative light as possible.

    2. As you gnu atheists continue to vilify everything about religion, I shal in turn continue to vilify everything gnu atheist say that is illogical and unreasonable

    3. The difference is that gnus vilify religion because there is compelling evidence that it is in sum a negative correlate to human well-being. This is a fight worth having because reducing religion's privilege in the public domain yields a a public good.

      That you fail to be convinced of this does not justify what you're doing to accommodate this pernicious influence. Regardless of your personal beliefs or lack of them, this support of religion in the public domain - whether overt or covert - is part of the problem that must be overcome for people to achieve rights of equality and freedom and dignity.

      Your response to vilify the character of individual gnu atheists is an honest reflection not of the shortcomings of those you malign unjustly but the quality of your own character. Hopefully, this criticism will stimulate you to undergo your own introspection.

    4. In democratic societies tildeb everyone has the right to voice an opinion, including church leaders whether we agree with them or not, let the ballot box decide. Fortunately we do not live in such an elitist society, where only atheists can have their way... Because they think properly.
      Further, the mainstream Christian churches practically feed and clothe the poor. Yes there are humanist atheist organizations out there, but they are very very thin on the ground.

  9. Spirituality was not stolen by religion, it is the essential core of all religion. Etymologically Spiritus is the ancient Latin root word meaning "to breathe" which also makes sense in terms of music singing and chanting.

    To be spiritual is not limited humanity, as enlightened spiritual people, always recognise the spiritual in higher other animals. I personally go further than that, I recognise the spirituality of all living beings including plants. I recognise, that though I might not fully understand why, but to me the Sun, the giver of all life is a spiritual living being with a consciousness beyond my limited understanding. The very universe is alive, and this is at the core of my spiritual understanding, this is my sense of oneness. Some choose to call this divine, of God, that's OK by me, I can understand and relate to them.

    I told you before I do not believe in any God you can name, nor a god that any man or woman can define, but I know that I am composed of star dust, I know intuitively humans are not the most intelligent, conscious or spiritually advanced life. Humanity is not at all at a totally advanced stage. I know that every atom that makes up me has been in existence from the beginning, and will be until the end of time when and if Entropy prevails.

    1. The molecules that make up your right hand come from a spent start most likely different than the ones in your left hand. These stars formed after the Big Bang, lived and died, and seeded this planet from which your body and consciousness has been made. The marvel that you are, the extraordinary remote likelihood that you would be born to be alive at this time in this place are infinitesimally small. It is understandable that we are in awe and wonder of how everything is connected to everything else to bring into actuality reality. But this sense of wonder and awe requires no religious sentiment first, which demonstrates that the religious sense of spirituality has been stolen after the fact in order to be attributed to religious belief... as if religious belief and spirituality are closely related kin when it is religious belief that has enslaved our natural sense of spiritus and claimed it for its own.

    2. Funny. I agreed with everything you said here

  10. You may think Tildeb that because I do not believe in any god you can name, nor any god that man or woman can define, I might be some sort of AtheiST. This is true on one level, as I have been informed, influenced and educated by many fine Atheists. However, in my definition of the modern usage of Atheism, one MUST be a materialist, to be totally empiricist, anti-spiritual, anti idealist, scientism. Further I have no commonality with those Atheists who deride, call delusional, label mentally ill, anyone who does not buy into their materialist illusion, ignorant of aesthetics.

    I may criticize scientism, I do not however hate science. Science will help us advance as human beings. Mathematics is the most precise way to describe the universe around us. However, beautiful music, wise and beautiful literature, history and philosophy, and arts practices of all kinds, will help us advance as well.

    1. Stuart writes in my definition of the modern usage of Atheism, one MUST be a materialist, to be totally empiricist, anti-spiritual, anti idealist, scientism.

      I could write a long post about how each part of this claim is inaccurate but I'll try to keep it short: nobody I know practices what you call scientism. I know many gnu atheists who exercise their atheism because they are idealists, because they understand their 'spirituality' is entirely human. Empiricism is the central technique on which we demonstrate how cause produces effect linked by a natural and understandable mechanism that is only complicated and obfuscated by the unnecessary insertion of some hidden, invisible, non corporeal, mass-less, weight-less, non physical yet strangely causal divine agencies... agencies that just so happen to blink into existence to allow someone who might be tempted by honesty to say "I don't know," to now pretend that the answer comes from beyond the vale, from some supernatural realm the person just so happens to know something about (helped, no doubt, by 'divine' revelation), only to have this agency wink out of existence as soon as knowledge of how material objects actually operate in this universe is produced. As knowledge advances, supernatural explanations retreat. It has ever been thus. This is the honest and real historical legacy of faith-based beliefs in the supernatural... whether you care to admit it or not. I see this legacy as a clue...

      You create a false dichotomy to suggest that atheists in general and gnu atheists in particular somehow reject or lose some important appreciation for music, literature, history, philosophy, and the arts by supporting the need for empirical evidence necessary to link materialistic causal claims. This is really a very tired and worn out canard that simply isn't true in fact. I make very beautiful, emotive, and evocative music with many believers and non believers alike. The audiences can not tell which musician believes what. So for you to claim that gnus must necessarily be ignorant of aesthetics will come as quite a shock to those who hold our demonstrable artistry in such high esteem.

    2. Your artistry of gnu atheism , is most peculiar. It really only is parody, and not much else. Remember the piss Christ a drawing of Jesus in human urine made by I guess a gnu atheist. Shocked a lot of funny Christians I suppose, but in the end the atheist proved to the world he played in his own piss

    3. Why do you continue to avoid facing my criticisms of what you have written head on? Here you are insisting that gnu atheism requires a particular approach ("in my definition of the modern usage of Atheism, one MUST be a materialist, to be totally empiricist, anti-spiritual, anti idealist, scientism"). I've shown why this definition is false in fact. But rather than admit that your definition is not related to what is true in fact, you wave your hands in dismissal of my point and head off in a new direction with this 'parody' tripe.

      Okay. Fine. You can't deal with accurate criticisms. So let's switch gears. Specifically (if you are able to be specific), what exactly is my 'artistry of gnu atheism' (whatever that might be) that is a parody?

    4. Not that you never make generalizations tildeb oh no no no. The artistry of gnu atheism I argue is represented by the piss Christ. That's all it ever does, mocks, never inspires. And doesn't have enough self knowledge that it's playing in its own piss

    5. You want proof of scientist in gnu atheism? Read Dawkins again

    6. I simply asked Specifically (if you are able to be specific), what exactly is my 'artistry of gnu atheism' (whatever that might be) that is a parody?

      The answer you seem unwilling to make is that your criticism of gnu atheism is that as a source of artistic inspiration, you don't think it inspires enough great art. (Why you couldn't phrase it that way is a bit of mystery... other than it isn't vilifying enough.)

      I never claimed gnu atheism was artistically inspiring. That's not its job. It's job is to criticize religious privilege in the public domain (written now for the second time). There are very good reasons - aimed at improving human well-being - for doing this. That it does or doesn't inspire enough great art (you haven't a clue what art it does inspire but assume - again - that it cannot) to satisfy Stuart is hardly an important consideration.

    7. I have read many of Dawkins' books and can attest that nowhere in any of them is he a proponent of scientism. I have read many books and articles by gnu atheists and can attest to the fact that none of them is a proponent of scientism.

      Stuart, your charge is false. I suspect you don't understand what 'scientism' means.

  11. Tildeb, I perceive the words Oogity-Boogity as an attempt to demean and deride another person's sense of the universe, their spirituality. Oogity Boogity, says in two words, that everything a Christian thinks or believes is uninformed superstition.

    I see the attempt by Gnu Atheism to deride liberal Christianity as some sort of ineffectual weak light version, as counter productive to the cause of rational, polite discourse whereby we can try to understand each other. I see Gnu Atheism's attacks on liberal christians as delusional, mentally ill, as casting aside potential allies in the real fight against fundamentalist, literalist interpretations of scriptures.

    I see Gnu Atheists attacking Christianity as if it was the only religion to ever exist, as the only type of religion that humans have ever believed. I see willful, arrogant misunderstanding and ignorance of comparative religion. I see in the Dawkins charge of "Delusion" an effort to demean, deride and label mentally ill, anyone that does not buy into a Dawkins brand of scientism and materialism.

    1. You're right, in that I use the term Oogity Boogity to define the supposed causation common in religious belief about some supernatural agency they can know nothing about.

      The fact is that such belief - like taking some parts of scripture to be metaphorical and other parts to be literal - has no basis in good reasoning (meaning compelling). No one seems able to define the method that helps us to know which is which. This is why faith-based beliefs share exactly the same method of inquiry, which is belief alone. And belief alone without compelling reasons to justify holding such belief is identical in all ways to delusion. There simply is no qualitative difference.

      This accurate observation is met with all kinds of false charges about motive and militancy and hatred and other apologetic dribblings. Perhaps this explanation will help you to understand why there are no accommodationist allies in this fight against religious interference in the public domain and why the fight is important to wage.

    2. Anti democratic, tyrannical elitist nonsense

    3. Let the ballot box decide. Like most gnu atheists this cartoonist assumes that the pope is some how the leader of all Christendom, what a stupid stupid fallacy. Calls for tolerance but is intolerant.
      Also assumes that faith is some how always dangerous, assumes that faith can't be informed by reason.
      Personally I am glad gnu atheists have little political power, because if they did, we would be having pogroms and thought police all over again. It is also scientism in action, science is not the only set of human ideas and action that will save the planet... Alll sorts of human ideas coming together to solve shared problems, will save the planet. Science may lead, but hey science got us the atomic bomb and DDT as well, so it isn't some sort of ideological saviour

    4. I am also very glad that the catholic church has less power these days. equalizing power and enabling everyone to have a say is my point, and that won't be achieved through the application of physics, but politics and law .

    5. I think you fear your own fears, which has nothing to do with gnu atheism, Stuart. Again, you misunderstand what scientism means and attribute it where it doesn't exist in fact.

      Look, the cartoon explains why there is a basic incompatibility between truth claims based on faith and truth claims based on evidence. As I pointed out earlier, this discrepancy makes itself rather obvious when we arbitrarily determine, for example, which parts of scripture we decide to be literally true and which parts we decide to make metaphorically true and which parts we can simply ignore. I point out that there is no reliable method independent of the reader to do this, which helps explain why there are more than thirty thousand christian sects alone - many with contrary and conflicting claims to be true - and no coherent and consistent method to arbitrate which of these are true and which are false, which ones are closer and which ones are farther, which one is true while all the others false. A single and reliable method to do this is simply lacking.

      This lack of a coherent methodology in matters of determining which faith-based claims are true in reality and which are not is a really important consideration when we have some public discussion about policy influenced by these claims held by many to be true in fact when they are actually held to be true only by accepting the faith claim that they are. This stuff matters. It really, really matters. It matters that we hold what's true to be important, and it matters whether or not claims are based on only a faith position or a position backed by compelling evidence and a reasonable explanation consistent with how reality operates.

      I've mentioned before that you and your beliefs are not the arbiter of what's true in reality. Neither am I. Reality is the arbiter. It is from reality - and how reality operates for everyone everywhere all the time - that arbitrates whether or not a claim you make, or I make, or some ancient writer makes, is likely true. Evidence to show that the claim is consistent with the evidence reality provides is a really good way to establish how seriously a truth claim should be taken. This method has produced astounding results - results we now take for granted.

      In any honest comparison between truth claims based on faith and truth claims based on evidence from reality, we see that knowledge about the world comes from the side that allows reality - and not faith-based beliefs - to be this arbiter. We do this because our knowledge never advances from faith-based beliefs; rather faith-based beliefs always retreat when compelling reasons to do so become understood. Put another way, there isn't a single useful and practical application produced by faith-based beliefs. Jewish prayers do not produce more healing than Baptist prayers any more than Jainist prayers outperform Greek Orthodox; instead we find that prayer adds no benefit to healing. Aimed at producing practical benefits, faith-based beliefs produces no knowledge upon which to do so. And this is why these conflicting methods of inquiry really are incompatible.

      This is not 'elitist' and 'tyrannical' nonsense. It is an admission that when we respect reality to be the arbiter of what is true about it we gain knowledge. What we do with that knowledge later is not the point here; understanding what the unavoidable conflict is between faith-based and evidence-based truth claims is the point. The difference is the respect we grant to what is true about reality by which of these incompatible methods we support.

  12. Well reading your talk on other, I guess it must be ok to like the central humanity of all people, except of course, Christians. I remain militantly agnostic.

    1. Put up or shut up, Stuart: give me evidence of where I show I don't like the 'central humanity' of christians.

    2. Points to the blog. I couldn't be buggered quoting you over 200 times

    3. I also point to your personal blog

    4. Again, Stuart, your beliefs are not equivalent to what is true in reality. I criticize religious beliefs - and point out how and why faith-based beliefs in any form suffer from a methodology incompatible with methodological naturalism we call 'science' - and I criticize the motivations of those who attempt to privilege them in the public domain. You'll notice that Kerry agrees with this point even though she's a person of religious faith and I do not malign her at all. Quite the contrary; I enjoy reading her posts. After all, she's free to believe what she wants on a personal level and I do not mock her. That's why I asked for evidence to your charge that I do not like the central humanity of christians when it should be obvious that I can and do respect a person without feeling compelled to having to respect the person's private beliefs. That charge you make, like so many you effortlessly fling my way, is simply false in fact, in truth, and brings into question your motivation to continue to malign me and my motives on this personal level. Nobody wants to read this kind of vitriol.

  13. Guys, I've loved the exchange of ideas, here - but this is sliding into an exchange of insults. I don't moderate comments, but please keep it respectful. This should be a safe space to be who you are - yes, to accept and consider challenges to belief - but never to feel attacked or demeaned. Cool with that?

  14. My apologies, Kerry. I could have phrased my request for evidence with more tact and kinder tone. Mea culpa.

  15. Apologies tildeb if you think my vitriol at gnu atheism is aimed at you personally. I guess you are just like a lot of Christians in that you take your views very personally. I argue that your views are not based in any reality that I am aware of and therefore totally reject gnu atheism. You're going to have to deal with that rejection. I can handle the fact that gnu atheism exists, you're just going to be able handle the fact that not every atheist or agnostic agrees with gnu atheism, it's methods or rhetoric. I reject gnu atheists like Dawkins and hitches, not because I dislike biology. Or evolution, but because I reject their over bearing methods, vitriol, and empty headed ness.

  16. Okay, Stuart I have deleted your second comment. This one, also, is bordering on inflammatory. I'm shutting this comment thread down now, because I don't think the discussion is constructive or helpful.